a few days ago i posted a few links on cryptography, privacy and safety with a few controversial statements by neil stephenson. salon has also recently elaborated on the issues and draws out a few interesting points:
” Neal Stephenson, a writer with a cultlike following among the technologically minded and author of
the classic “Snowcrash,” has given an over-long, hugely digressive — and brilliant — speech. After many, many turns and a deep stack of points and stories, Stephenson gets around to saying that the best defense for one’s privacy and personal integrity turns out to be not cryptography but, what do you know, “social structures.” He is not explicit about the exact nature of these structures, but from the slides that follow, we get a sense of every sort of social relationship from neighborly friendliness to political parties. The slides show drawings of small circles representing areas of social trust. The circles widen and merge, to create a field of autonomy, a trusted space.
Stephenson is making a point about code: Without a sociopolitical context, cryptography is not going to protect you. He singles out PGP for criticism, saying that relying on the encryption scheme is like trying to protect your house with a fence consisting of a single, very tall picket. A slide shows the lone picket rising into the sky, a bird considering it with bulging eyes.”